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Column: Cure a nosebleed.. and other home remedies

Everyone has their own home remedy. No one else’s is any good. Only your own.

Peter P. lived on the farm down the road from us when we first moved here. He was old and set in his ways, and still strong at 70.

“When I don’t feel good, I take a spoonful of number two fuel oil,” he used to say.

He’d been doing it since he was a little boy, when his parents fed it to him. A lot of people don’t make it to 70, so draw your own conclusions.

When we were little boys and we had a sore throat, dad got out the goose feather and the iodine. He’d dip the goose feather in that red death and say: “Open up and say ahhhhhhhhhhh.”

He was supernaturally fast with that feather, applying iodine to our irritated throats. Flick! Flick! Then would follow several minutes of us gagging and retching. After a couple of encounters with the goose feather while growing up, we learned never to be sick, and never, ever to have a sore throat. See? It did work.

Peter P. didn’t seem to have the aversive part of his home remedy figured out. It wasn’t that you never got sick. It was that you concealed that information until someone found you unconscious.

Oscar was a dark, swarthy Italian who came to the farm from Chicago with Aunt Margie while we were growing up. He was the polar opposite of Aunt Margie, who was the first female we’d ever seen with fingernail polish and high heels. Oscar came dressed in work clothes and dirty fingernails, a construction worker who wasn’t afraid to curse at our kitchen table. My brother and I were instantly attracted to him. One time we had colds, and Oscar insisted that wine heated over a flame in a silver serving spoon would cure us. It was a large spoon.

That was the best medicine ever. It put us and our snotty noses right to sleep and out of their way, so it did have some effectiveness, from a parents’ point of view. Compared to the goose feather, it was heaven. We decided we liked Chicago.

I had been teaching at the tech school a couple of years when T…, an older student in my class, revealed that he was a Golden Gloves boxing coach.

“How,” I asked him, “do you get those kids who get bloody noses to survive boxing?”

I grew up with a tendency to get nosebleeds, and although I now know it was more a function of the drafty, leaky winter homes and dry air than of my capillary system, nonetheless, I still get one once in a while.

We lost a lot of football games in high school because the coach spent most of his sideline time stuffing cotton up my nose. I know bloody noses.

T… told me: “I send them home with a tube of Preparation H and tell them to put it in their nose every night for a week, and they don’t have bloody noses anymore.”

Really. I went and got some instantly, because I was just getting over a cold and knew one was coming. When it did I stuffed a glob of Preparation H up there and it stopped instantly. Now? I never go anywhere without it. It’s a miracle. Whatever it has in it that shrinks tissue shrinks blood vessels, too. Thank you, T…

So I was over at the neighbor lady’s, and while she was preparing me a cup of pretend coffee, she complained about the bags under her eyes. Ah ha. Something that needs shrinking. So I told her about Preparation H and what a miracle it was and she said she couldn’t wait to try it.

I came back the next day. She answered the door. Her face looked like it had been in and lost a boxing match, eyes all dark and swollen. She was peering at me through narrow slits.

“My,” I started, sure she would be bagless, “you sure look….” I was going to say nice.

Then I quit talking. It turns out she was allergic to something in Preparation H. I watch her closely now when I’m over there, see that she doesn’t put Preparation H in my pretend coffee.

All I could think at the time but didn’t say was, “It’s a good thing she didn’t use it for its intended purpose.”

Alan "Lindy" Linda